Five years after Hurricane Irma, privatization and profit still being put before preservation and reconstruction

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ABDf Photo of Barbuda welcome sign

PUBLIC STATEMENT 

Today marks five years since Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda and forced islanders to relocate. When they returned, they found their land being privatised through a development scheme that threatens both human rights and the environment. Developers are destroying important wetlands, clearing untouched forests and putting Barbudans at risk of more extreme climate disasters. All to build expensive resorts that will only be accessible to the ultra-wealthy and their private jets. A pattern that is being repeated across the Caribbean region. 

GLAN, on the instruction of the Barbuda Council, submitted extensive evidence to the Geneva-based Ramsar Secretariat, the body responsible for ensuring protection for listed wetlands including Barbuda’s Codrington Lagoon National Park. So far, our calls for action and an international inspection mission have gone unanswered. 

Earlier this year, a group of UN legal experts expressed deep concern about the human rights implications of developments on the island catering for ultra-wealthy tourists, but this appeal has been ignored by both the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the parties to the Ramsar Convention. 

 

Five years on, GLAN considers that the Government, developers and their enablers, investors, customers and contractors have failed to respect the human rights of Barbudans if not actively impacted them. We call on the international community, and in particular the Commonwealth and the United States as the country of origin of several investors and contractors, to ensure these actors’ respect for human rights and the environment. We urge multinational enterprises to take their obligations seriously and immediately halt their activities.  

 

GLAN is particularly concerned by the intimidation of environmental rights defenders on the island. More than 20 islanders who investigated the sites of construction in 2020, have been summoned to appear in court later this month on charges of trespassing. Such charges effectively silence dissent against the ongoing confiscation of land.  

 

In times of a heightened global climate crisis, luxury tourism projects on the ecosystems of a low-lying island are the exact opposite of what is needed. The situation in Barbuda is representative of a worldwide phenomenon of land grabbing in the name of economic growth and provision of service for the elite. 

 

Read GLAN’s full statement in attachment or here 

 

You might find it helpful to note that there are several videos circulating to mark this day: 

 

  1. GLAN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iuU9gGfRoY. 

 

  1. SaveBarbuda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5D2NRFwjJA. 

 

  1. Newsy + Bellingcat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Bd8wM0ECwc&t=12s. 

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